Dorico 3 changes the score


Today Steinberg has released a new version of Dorico, its scoring program. Dorico 3, which is a paid upgrade for all existing users, is chock-full of new features, including some that are firsts for any music notation program. It also includes a huge number of improvements, many of which could be considered new features in their own right.

Headlining all the new goodies in Dorico 3 is a condensing feature, unique among all of the major professional notation programs, that automatically creates a conductor’s score from individual players. Vying for top billing is full support for guitar notation, with fingering, string indicators, tablature, chord diagrams, bends, and pre-bends coming to Dorico for the first time.

Further down the list is a harp pedaling function that is contextually aware, robust harmonics options, and grouped playing techniques. There are significant new playback features to help you audibly realize your notated creations. And, should you wish to express an opinion about anything in your score, you can now make comments directly in a Dorico project.

Onto the heftier “improvements”. Inputting music gets even better, including an eye- and score-opening multiple-stave entry function — a kind of real-time explode that goes hand-in-hand with the condensing feature. Text entry gains power with more tokens, allowing you to insert music symbols alongside regular text. Entering and editing lyrics is easier, with paste-to-entry functionality and an Edit Lyrics dialog.

Rounding out some of the other items just about everywhere in Dorico 3 are improvements to fingering, chord symbol regions, clefs, multirests, staff labels, dynamics, navigation, arpeggios, ossias, page layout, and trills. Dorico 3 brings a better project info experience and a comprehensive refresh of the user interface.

There’s so much to review. Our coverage in this post will give you a summary of all the new stuff. Then, in the coming weeks, you’ll be treated to a steady diet of Scoring Notes posts, each of which will focus on an individual new feature in Dorico 3. This first of those posts drops today concurrent with this post, to “unpack” the condensing feature, if you will.

As we’ve done with other major Dorico releases, this one necessitates team coverage. Scoring Notes contributors Andrew Noah Cap, Douglas Gibson, Florian Kretlow, Claude Lapalme, Leo Nicholson, and Ian Partridge all return to provide their expert take here.

Steinberg offers two tiers of Dorico: Dorico Pro (the self-explanatory professional tier) and Dorico Elements (an entry-level version aimed at students and amateurs). Everything in this review refers to Dorico Pro.

If you’re reading this post first thing on September 5 and want to catch the official live-stream announcement from Steinberg, it will be broadcast at 2pm BST / 3pm CET / 9am EDT / 6am PDT, and available later on-demand.


Please also read our separate, detailed review of Dorico 3’s condensing feature.

“Revolutionary” is a marketing trope all too common not just in advertising music notation software, but with many products. When we think about the advances in desktop music notation software over the past decade or so, a number of good ones come to mind, but on the evolutionary/revolutionary spectrum, most fall on the former side.

Perhaps only two features in the past 15 years or so can be considered truly revolutionary in that they have fundamentally changed the way we work with the software: linked (“dynamic”) parts and automatic collision avoidance (“magnetic layout”). If anyone were to design a new notation program today those features would be considered de rigeur.

This review was written before seeing Steinberg’s marketing campaign for Dorico 3, but if the term “revolutionary” is used, it is entirely justifiable. [Update: They go there.] Automatically condensing music to create a full score from music intended for single players is the top new feature in Dorico 3, and while there are significant kinks to still to be worked out (you should exercise caution in using the feature in the 3.0 version), it’s here to stay.

Condensed wind sections in the score of Brahms’ fourth symphony

Condensing is the process of combining the parts of multiple players on a single stave. This is a crucial step in the preparation of usable conductor scores because it helps save precious vertical space and improve legibility. While Dorico is not the first scoring software that tackles condensing, it is the first to offer a viable solution. If you use Finale, you may be familiar with its voicing option for linked parts, which aims to disentangle condensed scores created by the user.

Dorico turns the process completely around by compiling data from individual parts and creating a full score from it. It takes a staggeringly complex decision-making process and makes it as simple as possible for the user. Enabling condensing is easily done via the quick toggle Edit > Condensing. Dorico automatically groups instruments sensibly by assigning each identical adjacent solo instrument in the layout to a condensing group, but finer control is possible: go to Layout Options, choose your Full Score layout, and select the new Players > Condensing.

Dorico condenses music for solo players only, and does so by using an algorithm designed to divine how the music is organized into phrases from left to right.

The wind and brass from Beethoven’s 7th symphony, mvt. 1, entered as separate players in Dorico 3.0

Once these phrases are determined, Dorico looks at them separately and then chooses condensing methods from a list of four different approaches: unison (a 2), shared stem (single voice), shared staff (multiple voices) and “no condensing” (separate staves).

The result of Dorico 3.0 automatically condensing the music

Further control over condensing decisions on a flow-by-flow basis is found in a new section in Notation Options > Condensing. These areas govern the approaches concerned with pitch crossing, amalgamation, and inactive players. Labeling is handled globally from within Engraving Options, but can be overridden locally from the Properties panel.

Some of the Notation Options for condensing

The results are impressive, particularly on relatively straightforward music. However, the Dorico 3.0 release notes dedicated to condensing (as well as our much more detailed review on the feature) must be read with great care, for this enormously ambitious feature has not quite sprung fully perfectly formed in Dorico 3. More complicated scores will need some sort of manual override, but it is not possible to make those kinds of adjustments in Dorico 3.0. We expect that to be addressed in a forthcoming update. With that caveat, the inclusion of condensing as a fundamental feature of modern notation software is now a marker against which the rest of the field must be measured.

Guitar features

Please also see our separate, detailed review of Dorico 3’s guitar features.

Guitar fingering, string indicators, tablature, chord diagrams, bends, and pre-bends for guitar and other fretted instruments come to Dorico for the first time in version 3.

Fingering and string indicators

From the version history: “Dorico 3 includes comprehensive support for left- and right-hand fingering, with sophisticated automatic placement that produces results that are the equal of the finest published editions.”

Oh? Why, hello. Yes, please do sit down and tell us more. (laughter)

We continue reading: “Dorico has the most sophisticated algorithms for the placement of left-hand fingering of any software…”

Bold. Hmm…  It’s not bragging if you can back it up, right? And they have.

Fingering in Dorico is entered via the Fingering popover, via the Shift+F shortcut or via the symbol on the lower right hand part of the screen. L or R indicate that you are inputting left- or right-hand fingering. In this example, the blue L box shows this is left-hand text.

Dorico has a very convenient solution for string indicators. By clicking on the string indicator Show button, the correct string appears, with a perfectly proportioned indicator relative to the size of the music.

You can set a preference for left or right placement of the string indicator to the notehead.


String indicators above and below the staff can be created via the Shift+P popover by typing e.g. string1 or string3.

If you delete fingering text, and just ask Dorico to decipher the string indicators, this is done with ease.

Comparison of the same chord with different fingering and string indicators

Classical guitars have three nylon “treble” strings, and three silver-plated copper wound (or similar material) for the lower register. The general default hand position is for the thumb (P) to cover the lower three, and one each to cover the top three: index (I), middle (M), and ring finger (A).

Dorico handles this all very deftly, and you can customize as you wish in Engrave mode.

Guitar tablature

In Layout Options > Players > Fretted Instruments, Dorico is set up to show tabs in three possible ways, in addition to not showing tabs at all (which is called the Notation option):

  • Tab: Shows all rhythmic information (stems, beams, etc.)
  • Notation and Tab: rhythmic information is left off the tabs
  • Tab (no rhythms): without any rhythmic information

The result of using Notation and Tab is clear:

Steinberg says that “One unique advantage that Dorico provides in this area over other notation software is that the music can be shown on a regular notation staff and in tablature at the same time, and an edit in one representation then automatically affects the other.” This is indeed true when talking about comprehensive software such as Finale, Sibelius and MuseScore. However, Guitar 7.5 Pro sports a similar feature.

Note that any fingering entered in the notation staff is not automatically reflected in tab, and vice versa. As per the example below, the open string in the tab begins well before the notation text indicating the open string on beat 4.

Guitar chord diagrams

Dorico 3 has an integrated approach to chord diagrams that, despite the hundreds of chord shapes available, feels very familiar. The option to show chord diagrams is in Setup mode, where in the Players panel you right-click the player and choose Chord Diagrams. From there you can choose standard guitar, ukulele, mandolin, or banjo tuning, or one of dozens of other options.

“Dorico takes the novel approach of defining the chords not in terms of matching a specific combination of fingered frets at a particular position on the neck of the instrument resulting in a specific set of pitches, but rather in terms of a shape that is playable by a human hand and, provided any open strings can be stopped by way of a barre, can be moved up and down the neck,” according to the release notes.

This is evident in this example, where Chord may be moved along the neck is checked:

Once that’s done, we add some fingerings:

The real beauty here is in the automatic spacing. This example has zero manual adjustments. No departure from the default settings and look. The “out-of-the-box-results” are the best we’ve ever seen. It finally appears the spacing conventions of music notation have been systemized to the point where you have to actually work hard to make a disaster (which is possible to do if you try).

Guitar bends and pre-bends

With the addition of tabs comes the mandatory inclusion of bends. The terminology used to describe the instrumental techniques made famous by such legendary electric guitar figures as Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, and Eddie Van Halen has been “hazy” long before Dorico ever showed up.

Various options are given on how to perform this task, and control as you wish. This example (recreated from the one provided in the release notes) demonstrates how you can specify the interval range of the bend:

Bends in Dorico are found in Write mode > Ornaments > Glissandi, and you can assign a key command to them it if you wish in Preferences > Key Commands > Create Guitar Bend. The popover method also works: Shift+O followed by bend will do.

The most noticeable deficiency is the lack of automatic playback of bends, releases, or pre-bends in Dorico 3, although “this is under consideration for future versions of the software”. To be fair, we’ve seen other notation features introduced in earlier Dorico versions and their playback counterpart added later on (like with bends’ cousin, glissandi). However, unlike the improvements to condensing described earlier, playback of bends is merely “under consideration” and not promised — come on guys, don’t string us along!

Still, it must be acknowledged that the Dorico team has stuck out their necks to add comprehensive support for guitar notation in this release, and they’ve largely succeeded in bringing peace and harmony to the quintessential odd couple: guitar performance and music notation.

Harp pedaling

Please also read our separate, detailed review of Dorico 3’s harp pedaling features.

Dorico 3 comes equipped with a dedicated tool to help create correct and beautifully rendered harp pedal diagrams. It has options for graphic diagrams, diagrams using note names, and partial pedal changes. As long as View > Notes And Rest Colors > Notes Out Of Range is selected, Dorico will indicate unplayable enharmonics at any particular junction of a project. It is the first scoring program to be contextually aware of the state of the harp pedal configuration at any position in the score.

Diagrams are created using the Write > Calculate Harp Pedal command. Dorico will calculate what the pedal configuration should be until at least one the pedals has to be changed again. The red notes will then become black, and the next round of unplayable pitches will show in red following that segment. The tool can then be used again to resolve any newly arisen unplayable pitches.

It can also be run by selecting more than one note.

The “calculate” tool has to be used in segments, as it is an interactive tool. But it really encourages the user to think about pedaling in a proactive way, and if used properly, unplayable pitches can be completely eliminated.

A variety of Engraving Options for harp pedaling exist. We will explore what this means in our full review later on, but the bottom line is that there is nothing comparable on the market for sheer elegance and utility when it comes to dealing with the thorny issue of harp pedals.


A separate, more detailed review of Dorico 3’s harmonics features will be published later.

Dorico now includes dedicated features for notating harmonics on stringed and fretted instruments. This includes both natural harmonics and artificial/false harmonics. The feature is native, built-in and requires no tedious workarounds such as creating fake notes and changing notehead types.

To create a harmonic, write the notation of the fundamental pitch, for example, the open string of a natural harmonic or the stopped pitch of an artificial harmonic. Then, activate the new Type property in the Harmonics section of the Properties panel, and choose either Artificial or Natural. Dorico notates the harmonic correctly, including automatic support for the diamond notehead typically seen a fourth or fifth above the fundamental on stringed instruments. On guitar, the fundamental is correctly shown with a black diamond notehead too.

Example: the famous violin solo from Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite, engraved using Dorico 3’s native support for artificial and natural harmonics

To change the node between the 3rd and 6th harmonic, activate the Partial property and choose the number of the node: 2 for the second harmonic (octave) or 6 for the sixth harmonic.

Because multiple notes can be selected at the same time, and the properties set on all of them, a lengthy passage of harmonics becomes a breeze to create.  Just write the notation of the fundamentals, select the notes and flick the switch to convert them all to harmonics in one go.

There is no playback support for harmonics yet, but that will be added in future.

Grouped playing techniques

Please also read our separate, detailed review of Dorico 3’s grouped playing techniques feature.

Ever since the first release of Dorico, the team at Steinberg has been steadily advancing the capability of Playing Techniques. Playing techniques, you’ll recall, are graphics or text indicating that a certain technical method be used to produce the sound (e.g. “con sord.” or “flutter-tongue”).

In Dorico 3, support is added for grouped playing techniques. This means two important things.

Firstly, the duration of a playing technique can now be shown using a continuation line, as in this example.

An example of a custom playing technique using a continuation line in Dorico 3

Secondly, multiple playing techniques can be grouped together with a connecting arrow or line.

An example of a playing technique group using an arrow in Dorico 3

Dorico provides a variety of common line and arrow types. Dashed and solid lines can be terminated with a hook, solid arrow, outline arrow, or terminal line. Wavy lines of various levels of waviness, plus wedges of different shapes are also available. There isn’t a fully fledged line designing tool yet, but it definitely covers the vast majority of the cases in published contemporary music, and offers some interesting graphical capabilities when combined with the tweaking available in Engrave mode. More controls and options are of course promised for the future.

Grouped playing techniques can be created during step-time input from the playing techniques popover, for example by entering sul pont->, advancing the caret then entering sul tasto. They can also be created outside note input by selecting two locations in the score and typing sul pont->sul tasto into the popover. Finally, existing playing techniques can be grouped together by choosing Edit > Playing Techniques > Group Playing Techniques.

In Engrave mode, the Playing Techniques section of the Properties panel offers a variety of new properties for precise control of individual playing techniques. Predefined styles can be chosen, and the start middle and end of the line/arrow can be customized.

Overall, grouped playing techniques in Dorico 3 provide a solid upgrade to the functionality previously available, and open up Dorico to the world of contemporary music which often makes liberal use of such notations. We can expect further improvements in future, but most people will find that this “box” is now “ticked” and Dorico has everything they need in this area.


One or more separate, more detailed posts about Dorico 3’s playback features will be published later.

The playback in Dorico 3 can be described in just one line: What a surprise!

We didn’t expect too many playback improvements in Dorico 3 due to all of the other new features already being added. But the team managed to add even more in the way of playback.

Surprise no. 1: The Olympus Micro Choir Library

The Olympus Choir Library can be found in so many setups around the globe and can be heard in so many music productions that one can truly call it a standard choir library.

The balance between full sound and clear voice is outstanding, and therefore a good choice when it comes to choirs, whether it’s as the main choir library or as a sweetener — which is common practice in audio productions anyway.

Soundiron has programmed the Micro version of Olympus for the Halion family including the Halion SE. Olympus Micro is now shipped with Dorico 3 in addition to the Halion Symphonic Orchestra and Halion SE sounds.

Although the Micro is reduced to just 2 vowels (Ah and Oo) and the main articulations (sustain, marcato, staccato), for many of the most common situations it can be seen as a full choir library.

You can adjust both layers for female and voice samples individually. Detailed adjustments can be done for Legato, including Bend and Time, for Vibrato, Swell, Pan, Attack, Offset, Release and Release Volume.

All these parameters allow an individual assignment to Control-Change by using the CC-learn function, accessible via right-click onto the corresponding knob of the parameter to be assigned. Also, the key range for men and women can be defined for one’s own purpose.

Surprise no. 2: User-defined templates

Those who use a lot of third-party libraries know how time consuming it can be to set up a full template that includes expression maps. Dorico 3 now allows the user to save all manually created templates and make them available in any existing or newly-created project.

This is a great idea because it allows you to use a factory template in combination with third-party libraries to create a new library. Consider just a couple of examples:

  • You are fine with the HSO but the cornet should be a cornet and not a trumpet sound. So you bought VSL’s Cornet. Once you created an expression map for this library and saved the configuration you can now create your own template based on the HSO and overwrite the cornet. So whenever you load the template and add a cornet in Setup mode, the VSL Cornet will be loaded automatically.
  • You have created a template for EastWest Symphonic Orchestra but for some projects you prefer the EastWest Hollywood brass. So you can create a template based on EWSO and overwrite the brass family with the previously saved EWHH Brass configuration.

Surprise no. 3: Expression map editor

Opening the expression map editor in Dorico 3 was the biggest surprise of all. A whole bunch of cool new features are added to the Expression Maps editor to allow more detailed control of articulations and dynamics of any VST instrument.

There will be a detailed tutorial here on Scoring Notes within the next few weeks, but in short, a lot of features requested in the forum and in the Dorico Facebook group are added in Dorico 3.

  • It is now possible to use a secondary dynamic which can be assigned as key velocity or another CC. This is perfect for those libraries that allow an interaction between multiple dynamic controllers: expression + key velocity, expression + dynamic (sound), etc.
  • To every playing technique a midi-channel change can be assigned as absolute or relative. A library like EastWest Hollywood Strings does not have all articulations in one instrument, so multiple instances with all sort of articulations have to be added to cover them all. A good example is “staccato” which is not contained in the patch 06-keyswitch.  A combination of keyswitch and MIDI channel change does the trick.
  • Mutual Exclusion Groups allow to define certain articulations which exclude each other. For instance, a pizzicato and a downbow is not the best combination playback-wise!

Surprise no. 4: Play mode improvements

Some very interesting features have been added to the tracks in Play mode.

It is now possible to assign every voice in a staff to a separate VST instrument which runs fully independently. So it is possible to assign a flute sound to voice 1 and a clarinet sound to voice 2 and they will be played back as two players usually would do, using their own articulations and dynamics. This can be assigned for all flows or just the current flow. Once the switch is set to Enable independent playback of voices, you can step through the voices using the dropdown menu and assign VST instruments and a MIDI channel for each voice.

Dorico 3 now has a separate lane for key velocity per track. This allows for a detailed adjustment of entered or recorded velocities. A selected CC or a key velocity can be adjusted by entering a numerical value. This makes thing a lot easier when it comes to excessive editing.

The dropdown menu of the MIDI-CC lane has been enriched with a pitch bend control. In the real world, this varies all the time based on the function of the note and chord, as it’s something a musician does instinctively. If you are a fan of the orchestra tuning (alternate tuning) where, for instance, a major 3rd of the tonic has to be played 13.7 cents lower than equal temperament, you’ll like this.

Even more playback surprises

  • Glissando playback using discrete notes is added in Dorico 3. Especially when writing for harp, this feature makes things a lot easier. When adding a glissando line in a harp staff Dorico automatically plays back all notes corresponding to the given harp pedal diagram. It is also possible to delay the start of the glissando in the Properties panel. When enabled, the glissando playback will start after half of the given note’s value; for instance, when a whole note is written in 4/4 the playback starts on beat 3. (Note: a continuously graduating glissando playback is planned but not yet implemented.)
  • Swing playback can  be set to eighths or sixteenth as a swing unit including sliders to adjust the amount of the swing-feel in percent for lower and higher tempo.
  • Static dynamics can be hidden which allows crescendo chains always starting from, for instance, piano by adding “p” before each hairpin.
  • Individual objects can  be ‘muted’ by switching on the Suppress playback property (called Muted in previous versions of Dorico) in the Common section of the Properties panel.
  • It is possible to duplicate percussion maps in the action bar in Play > Percussion Maps, so you can use a given percussion map as a basis for a new one.
  • Dorico was a bit picky when it comes to playback from a certain position within the score. This is improved. Dorico will play back all instruments, even when multiple items on the same rhythmical position are selected.  When multiple items are selected horizontally Dorico will solo the selected staves.
  • The metronome can be enabled/disabled during playback by clicking the Metronome button or by hitting a custom key command which needs to be assigned in Preferences > Key Commands.
  • When using a template that automatically loads sounds like Halion Sonic SE or NotePerformer, Dorico used to stop loading sounds automatically to unassigned or new created instruments when VST instruments were changed manually. This issue is fixed. Dorico 3 will set assignments and load the appropriate sounds.
  • To get a better overview Dorico 3 allows you to rename VST instruments in the Endpoint Setup dialog. This makes things much easier when working with large templates. The numbering will not be affected; the beep will still be no. 1.
  • In case a VST instrument cannot be loaded due to a missing plug-in Dorico shows the name of the corresponding plug-in surrounded by exclamation marks.

Finally, a number of MIDI improvements are worth mentioning:

  • Dorico can now detect new MIDI devices while it is running – a very welcome improvement, as previously it was necessary to restart Dorico for this.
  • You can now decide what sounds Dorico should use when you play on your MIDI device outside of note input by selecting something on the respective staff. To do this, just click into a staff in Write mode or on the far left side of a track in Play mode.
  • Deactivate the new Enable MIDI thru option on the Play page of Preferences to stop Dorico from echoing any sounds when you play on your MIDI device.
  • Lastly, a new bit of UI may help diagnose problems with MIDI input: there’s a new MIDI activity indicator; it’s basically a blank spot in the bottom right corner that will flash green when Dorico receives MIDI data.


The new Comments feature makes it possible to attach annotations to specific points in the music. Make a selection and hit the default shortcut Alt+C to open the simple comment editor.

Just input text and hit Enter to create your comment (type Shift+Enter for a line break). A colored bubble with your initials in it will appear above the selected notes. There’s also a new Comments panel in the right hand panel in Write mode which shows the full text (and some additional info) of all comments in the current flow (you can add a comment from here as well, of course, by clicking the +). Click on a comment in the panel to move the viewport to its location in the score.

If you are working with others on the same project file, you can even have little conversations via comments: select a comment and press Alt+R to make a reply.

Comments can be exported from a Dorico file by pressing the Export Comments button at the bottom of the Comments panel: a lucid HTML table will be saved alongside the project.

That’s about it. Surely not the most glamorous Dorico feature ever, but comments are robust, intuitive and and they do what they’re supposed to. You can use them in much the same way you would in Sibelius. Very helpful!

Note input

Quite a few improvements here. The shiniest first: We can now vertically extend the caret with Shift+Up and Shift+Down. Thus note input can work on multiple staves at the same time. It is even possible to let Dorico distribute chord notes on the active staves during MIDI input. This is particularly useful in combination with condensing (in case you haven’t heard, Dorico 3 can do that now).

Two new commands have been added to the duration adjustment toolbox. If you’re suffering from horror vacui, you might find Write > Edit Duration > Extend to Next Note interesting:

The second one, Extend to End of Selection, is useful if you need to create pedal notes or chords for longer passages where calculating the actual note durations would be too onerous.

Dealing with all the tied contrabass notes in this passage from Stravinsky’s Histoire du Soldat would have been a real pain. Musically, they’re just a single event – and that’s exactly how Dorico thinks about them internally.

Extend to End of Selection was added at the request of Alan Silvestri, who often finds himself with a “forrest” of different time signatures in order to get a cue to a particular length or to hit particular markers. He asked for this feature so that he could cast away any worries about writing specific note durations. This is another example of Dorico understanding what lies beneath the notational representation of the music, making adjustments that may seem like serendipity. Silvestri is one of many users to contact the A-Team of developers and suggest features that are allied with the goal of scoring music in Dorico at speeds approaching 88 mph. Great Scott!

Text improvements and new tokens

Missing Fonts dialog

If you open a project that uses fonts that aren’t installed, Dorico will now warn you and give the option of substituting in different fonts and styles.

Music symbol tokens

New music symbol tokens have been added for standard accidentals, meaning that flats, sharps and naturals can now be included in text frames and Project Info fields.

Tokens menu

A contextual menu now appears when you right-click in any text frame. It’s no longer necessary to remember (or look up) what the many tokens do.

Staff label tokens

Staff labels now have their own tokens: {@staffLabelsFull@} and {@staffLabelsShort@}

These can be used instead of the {@layoutName@} token in the top left corner of part layouts, circumventing a long-standing issue whereby it’s difficult to make transpositions look pretty.

Dorico 2 on the left; Dorico 3 on the right

Shortcuts for bold, italic and underline

The universal behavior of using Cmd/Ctrl+B, I and U for bold, italic, and underline text respectively has now come to Dorico.


Please also read our separate, detailed review of Dorico 3’s new lyrics features.

The first of the lyric improvements is the ability to copy lyrics en masse and then paste syllable by syllable, a feature that should be familiar to both Finale and Sibelius users. Arguably the killer improvement here is that it’s possible to cut misplaced lyrics and then paste them into the right places.

Next up is the new Edit Lyrics dialog, from which one can edit existing lyrics out of context.

Last but not least, the vertical position of lyrics can finally be adjusted on a line-by-line basis, from Engrave mode. Grab any lyric, drag, and watch the whole line move.


Complex fingering being a crucial part of guitar notation, thorough work on the existing fingering implementation was necessary ahead of this release. Not all of the remarkable additions in that area are limited to fretted instruments though.

A considerable gap for elaborate piano fingering has been closed: it is now possible to place simple fingering indications inside the staff by activating the Inside Staff property. By default, the numbers are then placed closely to the left of the notes they belong to, but you can drag them wherever you like in Engrave mode. Dorico conveniently recalculates the horizontal spacing after a manual edit. Fingering indications inside the staff are drawn slightly smaller and they erase the staff lines behind them. Thus they’re very readable — better, in fact, than in many hand-engraved editions of the last century. Way to go!

As always, do visit the Fingering page of Engraving Options and take the time to specify your preferred positioning defaults for fingering within the staves. This might save you hundreds of manual edits over the next years. Just saying…

While at it, take a look at the new options concerning the Position for fingerings on cross-staff chords. Those guys don’t scoff at details!

They also don’t scoff at user complaints: The new Edit > Fingering > Reset Fingering command makes it much easier than before to delete all fingerings in a selection at once. (If you’ve ever needed to remove a whole lot of fingerings before, you’ll be as grateful for this as we are.)

Chord symbols

One niggle with the otherwise pretty faultless implementation of chord symbols in Dorico 2 was that it wasn’t particularly easy to switch on chord symbols for a short passage in an instrument, e.g. a solo. What you had to do was switch on chord symbols everywhere, then switch them off where you didn’t want them.

Dorico 3 solves this problem neatly by adding two new features.

1. It’s now possible to set an option to show chord symbols above slash regions. So, if you have a solo section already marked by slashes, you can turn on Show in Chord Symbol and Slash Regions in Setup mode for your player, and chord symbols automatically appear across the whole slash region.

2. If you don’t have a slash region but still want chord symbols for a short section, you can create a “chord symbol region”. Simply select the region you want to show chord symbols for and choose Write > Create Chord Symbol Region.

Transposing clefs

Dorico now includes a feature that allows you to hide or show a clef change in the layout of a transposing instrument. Although different clefs can be used already, having a clef change in a concert pitch score meant a clef (any clef) had to display in the part layout.

In Dorico 3, there is a new Properties item which allows the user to make sure the part layout does not use a clef change that could be viewed as superfluous once ledger lines are reduced by way of using a transposed layout of score. The Show for transposition property is a simple switch with two choices.

As the following example demonstrates, a signpost appears in lieu of the clef. The feature is easy to use and extremely helpful.

Multi-bar rests

Multi-bar rest counts have been given some love, too. It’s now possible to choose whether they should be drawn using characters from the default music font (for the classic bold-roundish look) or from another arbitrary font that you can then select as usual in the Font Styles dialog. Also, the numbers can now appear above or below single staves by default. Both options are found on the Rests page of Engraving Options.

Mind you, this is a montage, amazing Photoshop, um, Paint wizardry. They’re actually in different subsections.

Another improvement: When bar numbers are set to be shown on every bar and the layout also shows multi-bar rests, Dorico will no longer hide a bar number on a multi-bar rest for a single bar; the rest must contain at least two bars. When used in conjunction with the option to show ranges of bar numbers on multi-bar rests, this ensures a bar number appears between every pair of barlines.

What’s more, a few more problems concerning the consolidation of multi bar rests have been solved by enriching the code’s knowledge about dynamics and divisi changes.

Staff labels

A new option has been added to the Staff Labels page of Engraving Options that allows you to number similar instruments with different transpositions separately or together.

Increase/decrease dynamic intensity

New functions have been added for increasing and decreasing dynamic intensity markings by one step at a time: f to ff or mp to p, for example. These do not appear on any panels or menus, but you can set your own shortcuts from the Preferences > Key Commands dialog, as shown:

Pleasingly, these functions work on (vertically) linked dynamics, even on selections that extend condensed staves.

Navigation changes

The Dorico development team is listening closely to feedback from users, and acting upon it. One area of frustration that has been expressed clearly on the Dorico forum was with the experience of navigating the score using the arrow keys in Write mode. In Dorico 3, this gets a complete overhaul.

Previously, navigation was graphical in nature. With an item selected, pressing any of the Left, Right, Up or Down arrows would cause Dorico to navigate to the nearest item graphically. While fine in principle, in practice this didn’t work terribly well. The navigation algorithm seemed somewhat unpredictable, and for many users unpredictability equated to unusability.

In Dorico 3 navigation in Write mode is redesigned to follow clear rules. Order and sanity arrives!

Typing Left or Right now navigates to the previous or next note in the same voice. Pressing Tab cycles through other staff-attached items (for example dynamics or slurs). There are simple shortcuts for navigating to the next or previous bar, and for navigating to the top or bottom stave in a system.

Overall this provides a significant improvement, especially for those users who favor the keyboard and eschew the mouse wherever possible.

Project info

Dorico’s Project Info screen has been revamped and is now modeless (meaning you can now leave it open while you work, and click Apply to apply any pending changes).

One can now select flows on the left-hand side of the screen (Ctrl/Cmd- and Shift-select are enabled for this task) and edit them all at once. You can also duplicate, rename, move and delete flows all from the same box, adding great speed to these processes.

These improvements fall into the always appreciated category of: “I didn’t know I needed it, but now I can’t live without it”.


At least one adventurous user experienced a complete catastrophe when all of his scores disappeared from his appointed score folder. This was due to the fact that he had decided to change the location of his Auto-save folder to his default projects folder, effectively making these folders one and the same. This had the calamitous, yet completely logical result of deleting the content of his default projects folder upon exiting Dorico, since Dorico was instructed that said folder was also the Auto-save folder, which is used as a temporary container for scores backed-up automatically and then deleted upon exiting Dorico.

This is now impossible to do for our own safeguard. The option to choose the location of the Auto-save folder – now an invisible folder – has been removed.

User interface

Across Dorico 3, the dialogs and windows have all been refined for greater consistency and contrast. The Dark theme aligns better with macOS’s Dark Mode, and you’ve seen the screenshots elsewhere in this review. There is also a light theme, if you prefer:

Voice and selection colors have been tweaked so that they are easier to see.

Will you want to lick the interface? We don’t advise doing so but it’s all visually striking and appealing nonetheless, especially if you spend most of your day with Dorico.

Even more

Arpeggios: There’s now support for slur-style arpeggios; non-arpeggio brackets get additional endpoint positioning options.

Bar numbers: There are more placement options — it’s now possible to show bar numbers above the top staff of the system, below the bottom staff of the system, and optionally above the top staff belonging to specific players. Also, if a bar number is drawn inside a circular or rectangular enclosure, the enclosure now erases items in the background of the music, so that it is not obscured by any barlines.

Ossias: There is a new option Join ossia with systemic barline for systems with only one instrument, which is actually switched off in new projects, although projects created in earlier versions will have this switched on. The engraving authorities have determined that it is more correct for the barline not to appear in these instances.

Page layout: If you’ve been working with instrumental parts in previous versions of Dorico, you’ll be very happy to hear that the page layout algorithms have been significantly enhanced. Rehearsal marks and other objects that protrude from the staff no longer cause systems to be unevenly distributed on the page.

Print mode: You can now type Home or End to go directly to the first or last page in the print preview; you can define these shortcuts otherwise if you so choose.

Trills: Dorico no longer hides auxiliary notes for trills when they describe an interval of a diminished second; instead it only hides them when the interval is a perfect unison. Also, the the Trill interval property now allows you to choose a doubly-diminished interval, typically only seen in harp music, where they like to spell enharmonics differently than everyone else.

Bug fixes: Nearly 100 bug fixes; find your dream “STEAM” by checking out the version history.

System requirements, upgrading, trial version, pricing

System requirements

On Windows, Dorico 3 will only officially support 64-bit Windows 10. Running Dorico 3 on earlier versions of Windows is currently possible, but it’s not officially supported and not guaranteed for the future.

On macOS, Dorico 3 will require at least macOS 10.12 Sierra. It will not even run under 10.11 or earlier. There is no support for macOS 10.15 Catalina in the initial release. The reason for that, according to product marketing manager Daniel Spreadbury, is: “macOS 10.15 Catalina introduces further changes to the operating system’s security model that put further onus on independent software vendors like Steinberg. Applications like Dorico and Cubase, which need to integrate third-party code and plug-ins, like VST instruments, require more complex entitlements than simpler applications. Until Apple release the final GM build of Catalina we can’t say officially what the support position is, but Dorico 3.0 itself will not be completely ready for Catalina, and I would recommend anybody who wants to keep their music apps more generally running smoothly to take a wait-and-see approach to Catalina rather than upgrading right away.”

Upgrading to Dorico 3

Upgrading and installing Dorico 3 is straightforward, although our old frenemy the e-Licenser may throw a curveball if you’re not correctly set up there.

Dorico 3 will not overwrite Dorico 2, and the two versions mostly coexist peacefully on the same machine. You can’t have both versions open at the same time, though; one or the other will crash because both two instances of the audio engine cannot reliably run at the same time.

The Dorico 3 installer will copy over your settings in your Dorico 2 user application folder. For instance, any custom shortcuts you’ve created from Dorico 2 will transfer over seamlessly to Dorico 3. This also goes for third-party setups like the custom profile installed by Notation Express, which will work just fine in Dorico 3. (As the official blog of NYC Music Services, we can say here on Scoring Notes that a free update to Notation Express that takes advantage of some of the new Dorico 3 features will be forthcoming to all existing users, though it is not immediately available. Priorities!)

You can open Dorico 3 files in Dorico 2, although any unsupported feature will be removed:

If you first activated Dorico Pro 2 or Dorico Elements 2 (or indeed Dorico 1.x) on or after August 8, 2019 you will be eligible for a free update to either Dorico Pro 3 or Dorico Elements 3 as appropriate. Enter your eLicenser number into this form to verify your eligibility.

Trial availability

The 30-day unrestricted trial version of Dorico 3 is not yet available at the time of the publication of this post. Steinberg has told us that “it will follow either two or three weeks after September 5”.

Suggested retail pricing in USD and Euros

New licenses

  • Dorico Pro 3 – $579.99 / €579 box; $559.99 / €559 download
  • Dorico Pro 3 Edu – $359.99 / €359 box; $339.99 / €339 download
  • Dorico Pro 3 Crossgrade – $299.99 / €299 box; $279.99 / €279 download
  • Dorico Pro 3 Edu Crossgrade – $179.99 / €179 box; (you don’t need an educational version of Finale/Sibelius, but you do need to qualify for Steinberg’s educational pricing)
  • Dorico Elements 3 – $99.99 / €99.99 box/download
  • Dorico Elements 3 Edu – $66.99 / €66.99 box/download


  • Dorico Pro 3 from Dorico Pro 2 – $99.99 / €99.99 download only
  • Dorico Pro 3 from Dorico Pro 1.x – $149.99 / €149 download only
  • Dorico Pro 3 from Dorico Elements 2 or 3 – $449.99 / €449 download only
  • Dorico Pro 3 Edu from Dorico Elements 2 or 3 Edu – $289.99 / €289 download only
  • Dorico Elements 3 from Dorico Elements 2 – $29.99 / €29.99 download only

The boxed versions do not contain any physical media, but for Dorico Pro 3 all boxes include an (optional) USB-eLicenser. The boxed versions of Dorico Elements 3 do not include a USB-eLicenser.

All US prices are exclusive of state sales tax; Euro prices are inclusive of German VAT at 19%; actual prices vary per country, and you should check the Steinberg online shop or your local reseller for the price you will pay.

Multi-user pricing for 5 or more copies is also available for both Dorico Pro 3 and Dorico Elements 3 and is now much simpler to understand. New licenses, crossgrades from Finale and Sibelius, and updates from Dorico Pro 2 or Dorico 1.x are all available.

Closing thoughts

Now that you know what Dorico 3 will cost you based on your particular circumstances, should you get Dorico 3?

If you already own and like Dorico 2, by all means don’t hesitate. You get major new features and improvements, each for the price of a coffee, and you can continue using Dorico 2 for as long as you like.

That said, if you plan on using condensing in particular, and perhaps some of the other new features, there is one thing worth noting. For all of our excitement about Dorico 3, the 3.0 version explicitly leaves some things on the table, to be improved upon in unspecified future updates. The track record of the Steinberg team delivering on such promises is strong, so there is little concern there. Rather, as much as we encourage users to try the new features, anyone using Dorico for production-level work would do well to be conservative in adopting an approach that incorporates them until the dust settles in perhaps a 3.0.10 or 3.1 update.

If Dorico is your first foray into notation software, you will be quite satisfied. If you’re thinking of switching or adding Dorico to your toolbox, you’ll be amazed at what it can do — though keep in mind you can’t just hop in and try all the old tricks from your current software and expect everything to work the same. Once the new terms (“flow”, “popover”, etc.) become familiar, you will be rewarded the more you customize it suit to your own needs and workflow.

In any event, for anyone coming to Dorico for the first time, the most risk-averse approach would be to wait for the Dorico 3 trial to become available and see if you like it before purchasing it. If you just can’t wait, however, most potential users will qualify for a discount off the full sticker price by virtue of their status as an educator, student, or user of other software, making Dorico 3 an excellent value. You could also split the difference and get Dorico Elements to see if it’s all you need, and if it leaves you wanting more, upgrade to Dorico Pro later.

The most innovative advancements in desktop music notation software today are coming from the Steinberg scoring team. This much is abundantly clear. It’s not just the ever-growing list of features that sets Dorico apart, but it’s the quality of those features and the care with which they are developed.

The degree to which Dorico’s sophisticated user base influences development is also evident. The Dorico team is listening, and messages on the official forum go directly to the developers. The positive feedback loop reinforces customer loyalty and improves the product.

This is not to take away from the other products in the market, as the history and circumstances behind each competing product have in large measure determined their respective fates and current states. If the earlier part of this decade was marked by corporate uncertainties and development stasis, as 2020 approaches we’re in relatively golden times from a consumer perspective.

In our exclusive interview in 2015 with Sibelius co-founder Ben Finn, he said, “I surmise that when Steinberg comes out with their new program, having three really strong programs in the market will be more than enough… in terms of comprehensive professional-quality music notation, I can’t see how you could ever have more than three. Because you have to make money, and you have to pay staff. You can’t do that unless you have market share and are making some serious money.”

Can the market sustain three “really strong programs”? Dorico 3 has already changed the score in terms of the music that appears on the screen. In the ever-competitive music notation software industry, Dorico 3 may change the score there, too.

Alexander Plötz helped edit this post.


  1. Waldbaer

    A really useful and already quite in-depth overview on the new features, thank you! Nearly all of them seem very useful and some might even change my personal workflow. I’ll surely update very soon.

  2. Bob Zawalich

    Stop! I can’t breathe. What is the superlative form of “Incredible”?


  3. Derek Williams

    Congratulations, Team Dorico, you nailed it! Switching now.

  4. Peter Hamlin

    Thanks for an excellent review, most helpful!

    It was a very easy choice for me to upgrade. I’m most excited about parts condensing, but the countless other big, medium and small improvements will be appreciated as well.

  5. Renato

    Great! Now with guitar tab feature added I am starting to consider Dorico as an alternative to Sibelius. Too bad the team decided to approach guitar bends the way Sibelius does, with all those ugly cue sized grace notes and too much rhythm information.

    Please Dorico team, if you read this, check out how Guitar Pro handles bends. It plays back great, and it is the way guitar players think when bending a string. The way Sibelius and now Dorico approaches bends makes everything too hard to read with too much clutter and really time consuming to make it look good.

    Think about guitar bends more as an expression and less as a melodic passage.

    1. Daniel Spreadbury

      Renato, I’d love to discuss this further with you. We are following the conventions of many guitar publications when it comes to the appearance of bends, but in principle I’m not opposed to adding further variations for their appearance. Please feel free to contact me directly with some examples, and we’ll be happy to discuss further. I’m easy to find (come to the forum, or find me on Twitter, or email me at d dot spreadbury at steinberg dot de).

      1. Renato

        Hello Daniel. Thanks for the opportunity to discuss guitar notation in Dorico. I am really glad you are willing to listen to a possible future Dorico user and my use case.

        I will definitively send you an email with examples of how you can create variations on the implementations of guitar bends and other guitar notation stuff. =)

        Thanks again!

  6. Jon Burr

    I bought it on the upgrade – 3 things I’d be hoping to see in some future release:
    ► Ability to add audio file(s) to flows, with the waveform visible in the Play window for tempo map editing
    ► Ability to mass select/edit midi data – for example reduce all velocities by a %
    ► Ability to attach a controller to mix faders, and record mix automation.
    As of yesterday, as a first time user, I was frustrated to find that the forum was loading very slowly, and basic information wasn’t coming up in search. Given the energetic development happening in Dorico, it appears to represent the future of notation, able to serve arrangers and composers creating both master recordings for underscore as well as sheet music.
    It seems much less burdened by legacy bugs than the other major platforms ! Following !

    1. Leo Nicholson

      Jon; the Dorico forum is an awesome resource, both for advice from power-users and for getting in touch directly with the development team. It’s noticeably slow at the moment because of the huge amount of traffic it’s receiving in conjunction with the new release, but I’d expect that to die down in the next few days.

  7. Kambro

    Latest hesitations before buying Dorico.
    Until now, I’m using Sibelius. I am quite satisfied but I am looking for an easier and most performing tool from the point of view of typographic quality. Dorico seems a solution. Can you ensure me I will not be disappointed ? Thank you by forehand.

    1. Florian Kretlow

      Since we don’t know your specific requirements, we can of course not promise that you won’t be disappointed.
      Easier – yes, most likely, once you get used to how the program works.
      As for typographic quality, the default engraving quality is certainly way better than what you get with Sibelius, and almost everything can be tweaked if need be. Regarding text, Dorico lacks advanced support for OpenType features: at present there’s no UI for enabling or disabling specific features. Apart from that the layout engine seems pretty robust.

      I would recommend to wait for the demo version and try it before you jump ship.

  8. Mark Isaacs

    May I give some frank and passionate feedback as someone who is ready to have his inherent resistance to changing programs defeated if functionality offered elsewhere becomes irresistible, and who has found to his surprise that what was most lacking in Sibelius has been delivered back-to-front and in an unusable way (for me).

    In 50 years of writing orchestral scores, I’ve never used the term “condensed score” nor have I ever heard it deployed, anywhere. It’s a SCORE. Which by tradition, is assumed to be “condensed” by default (as needed).

    The Dorico video on “condensed scores” tells me that I can just enter the music the way I always do (!), with a separate line for each instrument. What an assumption: I’ve never entered my music that way! And I would HATE to work with an orchestral score of that many staves, even at (especially at!) its entry point.

    Will Dorico be able to turn these algorithms around, and create correct dynamic parts automatically from the (so-called in its own bespoke terminology) “condensed” scores I write at first blush? That’s what I’ve been waiting for! My scores don’t need condensing. My scores need an intelligent AI “copyist” (like the human copyists I used to have) to produce a set of parts from them. That can read and implement “1.” “2.” “a2” “unis.” etc. And deal with either homophonic or polyphonic multi-player music with attendant dynamics and articulations. Sibelius and a suite of plugins can do that now. It just needed to be all integrated into a single flow. I thought Dorico would be the killer app to do it. Instead it tells me to pretend the sun goes around the earth and act accordingly.

    Dorico appears to making a demand for what to me (and surely others) is a completely alien workflow, and inventing its own language by which to call a horse a cart. Effectively its assumption is that a score is built by “condensing” a set of parts that have been vertically stacked up by the composer. No! A set of parts is derived from a score (which is, by its nature, and by tradition, is “condensed”).

    I THINK in SCORES. Calling a score a “condensed score” just invents language that justifies the workflow that has been implemented here. “Write your score! It won’t be practical for use because it will have a line for every instrument! Don’t worry! Dorico will make a condensed score. Conductors and others use condensed scores. They always say ‘Hand me my CONDENSED score”.

    It’s an obscurantist fabrication.

    I’ve got centuries of tradition on my side (as well as many practical considerations like number of staves at entry mode) when I say the pitch should be “Write your score! In doing so it goes without saying that you’ll use all the traditional ways to condense the layout with multi-player staves! Dorico will produce a set of dynamic parts from it!”.

    I have spent my life living with orchestral scores. When I write the score of my next symphony I want it to look like a score as I write it in, not be forced to deal with a page with an unnaturally bloated number of staves because every instrument has a stave. I would be nauseous to look at a page like that for a moment. Anyway, I SEE/HEAR two flutes on one stave. It’s hard-wired, I have never seen, and never want to see them on two staves, at any part of the workflow. (All that barring the most extreme and rare examples which do exist, where the music could not be in any case EVER be condensed to one stave for two players).

    Perhaps Dorico will offer the option one day of reversing the causality of what I’m sure are powerful algorithms? This for me would be the killer app to make the switch.

    1. Leo Nicholson

      Pages 3-6 (particularly page 5) of the Dorico 3 Version History ( describes why the new Condensing feature has to work the way it does. The new extended caret does allow you to write chords (and dynamics, and slurs, and articulation markings) into multiple instruments simultaneously, and you can actually view the Condensed and Uncondensed versions of the music on the same screen at the same time.

      1. Mark Isaacs

        Thanks for the reference to the Version History. I read it, and in essence it claims that ambiguity is inherent if the user prepares a condensed score manually and the program produces the parts from it. Apparently the traditional workflow must therefore go into the “too hard basket”

        When I worked with human copyists, I never encountered problems with ambiguity. And any conductor looking at a score can work out which player is playing what, It would be surprising if music notation software cannot (now) do in essence the same thing, which would comprise following, for a stave containing the music of two instruments:

        *In polyphonic music Voice 1 goes to Instrument 1’s part, Voice 2 to Instrument 2’s part
        *In homophonic music top note goes goes to Voice 1’s part, bottom note goes to Instrument 2’s part
        * The a2 marking (in a specific text style) causes the music to duplicate to both parts
        * Music marked “1” (with allowable variants like 1.) in that specific text style causes the music to go to Instrument 1’s part only, the converse for “2”. This is defeated when “a2″ is invoked, or polyphonic or chordal homophonic music appears anew which is again distributed to both parts
        *Dynamics attached to single voices in polyphonic music travel with that voice to the part. Dynamics in homophonic music appear in both parts.

        That’s pretty much the coding challenge, and would work for most music. With any subtleties, as with any program, there might need to be some sub-options selected. Harder things in notation software have been solved, it seems to me. Anyway, Sibelius plus the right plugin (perhaps not already yet written) could already do it, albeit in a multi-step rather than seamless way. I assumed that Sibelius’s legacy code would not allow it do what I always assumed Dorico wold do: make it a one-stop shop (without reversing causality!),

        The Version History says ” you simply produce the parts you want the players to see, and leave the vast majority of the work in producing the conductor’s score to the software”.

        Again, this has put the cart before the horse: as composer I want to produce the score – that’s what composing is! – and leave the vast majority of work in producing the parts to the software. Perhaps it is indeed easier for the software to do it Dorico’s way, but I won’t use software that requires me to change my definition of what a composer fundamentally does to make it easier for the software! The “You simply produce the parts” from Dorico is anathema. What used to be a called a “copyist” produced the parts. It is *this* job which software has replaced . Now the software wants to replace the composer’s job and relegate the composer to copyist: “You write the parts, composer, and the software will write the score [!)]. You can toggle between windows to check how the software is writing your score for you [!]. If you don’t like it, you can change it if you must, but we’re making it extra hard to change directly, you can’t have complete control over the result in a direct way.”

        A score is the representation of music for an orchestra (or any large group of players) in the same way as grand staff is a representation of music for a keyboard instrument. A score is a document we now prepare on a computer. When we work on a document on a computer, we work on the document directly. That came in decades ago. Remember WYSIWYG?

        As I say, the use of the term “condensed score” is a fabrication, since uncondensed scores have no practical utility as a separate “higher” layer of the hierarchy. An uncondensed score is simply a badly notated score. A true “condensed score” would be a reduction of an ACTUAL score, like a piano reduction of an orchestral score.

  9. Kathryn

    Any idea when figured bass might be coming? That’s the feature I’m waiting for, and I was sure it would be in version 3. I’m ready to switch from sibelius, but do almost exclusively early music.

    1. Florian Kretlow

      No, we don’t know when figured bass will be coming. Likely not in the near future.

      But did you take a look at the Figurato font? It was developed for Dorico, and it might allow you to use Dorico without an official figured bass feature:

      1. TheIgorS

        Figurato works great, but the one feature I really miss, is the ability to use roman numerals and function symbols for my works as a music theory teacher. Sibelius has these features but lacks the possibility of combining the symbols with horizontal lines for a propper visualisation of the harmonic progress.

  10. Bill

    Wasn’t there supposed to be an article specific to new playback features?

    1. Philip Rothman

      Yes, we’ve still got a playback article planned, and a few others.

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